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State Dept. doesn’t issue statement on anniversary of MH17 downing

State Dept. doesn’t issue statement on anniversary of MH17 downing
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The State Department on Tuesday did not release a statement to mark the anniversary of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine on July 17, 2014, the first time it has not done so since the incident occurred. 

According to a new report from Foreign Policy, the State Department circulated a draft statement that was critical of Russia over the incident, in which the flight's 283 passengers and 15 crew members were killed after their plane was shot down by a Russian missile over Ukraine. But the draft statement was never released publicly.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoIMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East Saudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Overnight Defense: Trump worries Saudi Arabia treated as 'guilty until proven innocent' | McConnell opens door to sanctions | Joint Chiefs chair to meet Saudi counterpart | Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' MORE did sign a statement paying tribute to the incident and condemning Russia's role in it as part of a joint statement with other foreign ministers belonging to the Group of 7 (G-7) nations. According to Foreign Policy, the Canadian and British governments quickly published that statement on the websites of their foreign ministries, but the State Department only did so after being contacted by the news organization on Wednesday. 

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Wednesday insisted the State Department has not changed its position.

"The United States government has long said that Russia is without a doubt responsible for shooting down MH17," Nauert said when pressed on the State Department's silence. 

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"I hope the decision that the United States made this time to go with the G7 statement doesn’t cloud anyone’s judgement about our steadfast conviction that Russia stands responsible for the shoot-down of the MH17," she added. 

She said the State Department has signed onto two other statements condemning the attack since May.

"We have put out three statements in two and a half months and we think that that covered it," Nauert said.

A source who requested anonymity told Foreign Policy that the draft statement was quashed because Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not approve of its language.

The statement said the missile came from a Russian military brigade, “was brought into sovereign Ukrainian territory from Russia, was fired from Russia-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine, and was then returned to Russian territory," Foreign Policy reported.

Russia has vehemently denied its involvement in the shoot-down. 

The State Department's silence came one day after Trump's controversial press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which Trump downplayed Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. 

Critics have long slammed Trump for his praise of Putin and refusal to acknowledge Russian meddling in U.S. elections. 

Several family members of people who were killed in the MH17 crash have publicly lambasted Trump for his stance on Putin in recent days. A father who lost three of his children in the incident condemned Trump on Facebook

"That the man whose arse you've just been kissing did this, and continues to lie about it, is an irrefutable fact," Anthony Maslin wrote.